Monday, September 14, 2009

Ride Report: Hastings Highlands Hilly Hundred (4H) 2009

Mark of OBC's composition. His camera took a still every two seconds. Turn up the sound for this; it totally makes it.

That's a mouthful eh! The H4 is a century ride organized by the Broken Spokes bicycle club in Bancroft Ontario. Much to our surprise three years ago, Rodd and I discovered that the Hastings Highlands are just that; they climb pretty darn high and can be rather steep. Just over 2 hours drive from Ottawa, the area, just south of Algonquin Park, is home to a healthy dose of hills, sights, and friendly folk. History too. On our first attempt I suffered hideous aching in my legs on the infamous Siberia Road climb. I think I was burning muscle for energy...or something. It hurt, real bad. We'd hung with the lead group for a long time before letting them go. Nevertheless, I succumbed, and had to stop in hopes of recovering. Nope, just had to keep on truckin'. It was the hardest ride I had ever done to that point. Fast-forward a year. Rodd and I returned, along with a gaggle of friends. This time it would be different. I had prepared all year, learned how to eat and drink more consistently, and had many more miles under my chamois. Rodd and I did great, riding in the lead group into Siberia. Rodd climbed away from me with the 5 or six others on the climb as hamstring cramps set in. Determined to keep up, I moved my effort around, pushed back in the saddle and stood up to make it through the climb, catching up to the others at the checkpoint at the top. Once rolling again I managed the cramping with much effort as our numbers dwindled to four - Russ from OBC, a masters rider in Bushtukah kit, Rodd, and I rolled along the final kilometers. Then misfortune hit. Rodd began to bonk, and without food onboard (due to an unfortunate sequence of events), he had to drop off. The other three of us finished together; Russ towed us in.

After our first two attempts at Hastings Rodd and I both had goals. Rodd wanted to hang with the lead group until the end, as did I. But I wanted to do it without suffering the muscle damaging cramps. You see, I am still recovering from the damage I inflicted in 2008. Massage therapy, is helping a lot, but I'm not back to normal yet. Twinges still flair up when the going gets tough. So priority one was to avoid cramping. Priority two was to keep Rodd with me along with as many of the others as possible. This proved more difficult than expected.

The sun begins to shine through the morning fog at the farm.

These kinds of events always begin early. D2R2 starts at 6:00 am. That's about as early as I want to ride. You gotta get up before 5! Not natural. Hastings starts at 8. We all got up just before 6 and got breakfast going. Oatmeal was the popular choice. Quick and effective. I also ate some baked beans, another good choice. I like them on whole grain toast. This bean episode highlighted my persistent optimism. As I got halfway down the can while in the car, I found a cube of something white. Some of you will know already that I am vegan. I don't eat animal products, with the exception of honey. Therefore, I do not buy beans with pork. Naturally, Rodd suggested it must be pork. 'No,' I said, 'I think its tofu.' This profoundly stupid statement must have been related to my insomnia hours before (good thing the sleep two nights prior to big rides is the important one). I read the label, and promptly ceased to consume the can's contents. I don't think my lovely wife will ever read the label on beans the same way again (she was kind enough to pick up some food for me prior, and I DID NOT say unkind things to her about it).

Jacques' homestead, our abode for the weekend. Perfect.

Check in on-site went smoothly in Bancroft after our foggy drive over. Unlike last year, when Rodd forgot his helmet and I missed the departure while corralling others in our group - and consequently had to chase for 10k, alone! - we were all ready to go on time. However, 'on-time' slipped backward due to some riders being lined up early and 'cold'. As Steve filled his bottles - on-time - the pack rolled out, early. I didn't even know he wasn't there. He had to chase for a couple kilometers. Note to ride organizers: do not start events early, unless you are certain everybody is ready to go. In a word, this is unfair. Chasing sucks. Luckily, Steve got back on before too long, but he'd have been better of saving that energy for later.

Steve, in the pack and riding smart. He rode really well.

Misadventure struck Rodd about 3k in, on the highway right at the start when he dropped a bottle, his only bottle. It was promptly run over by another rider, and Rodd had to pull an emergency skid stop on the gravel shoulder. Apparently, this elicited a 'Hey man, its not the Tour de France,' from another rider. Hearing this later, we all found it hilarious, as a Tour rider would certainly not stop for a bottle. Pretty funny. What's he gonna do, ride 162 more kilometers sans bottle? Uh, no. Rodd told us how he found the bottle in one ditch and followed the water spray to the other ditch where his cap lay. He had to chase but the upside was that he picked up Steve (see above) and got back on without too much trouble, thankfully.

Jamie and Steve were hanging well in the pack, as were Jeff, Chris and Andy. At each subsequent checkpoint the guys had less and less time to stop. Steve and Jamie pretty much just arrived as the group rolled out. Some of the others were keen to keep the stops down to 60 seconds, shorter than the previous two years. This whittled the field down at each stop. I would have personally preferred to give the stragglers an extra minute or two to get going, but that wasn't happening. Steve and I planned a derailleur adjustment on his bike as we approached the lunch stop, knowing time was going to be very short. Instead of helping Steve, I helped Rodd with his well timed flat. We worked together to get it fixed, but the rest in the group rolled out while we were still finishing. We had an agreement that we'd help each other in the event of flats, so I wasn't going anywhere. Meanwhile, Steve was on his own with his derailleur but got it adjusted. Jamie was still not in, Chris and Jeff further back. Rodd and I rolled out with Steve and Andy in tow, but Rodd's wheel slipped due to my lack of proper tensioning on it (semi-horizontal drops). I waited, and we continued up the brute of the hill and onward in chase of the lead group. I pulled Rodd back, but Steve and Andy could not get on in time and Steve then fell victim to a minor issue and was left behind. We got on and recovered as much as we could.
Rodd's note, this getting back on business almost had me bleeding out of my eyes. Chasing to get back on was the hardest part of the whole ride.

Approaching the last checkoint...probably.

The last checkpoint was at about 135k in. It was quick, and we were off. More climbing. Rodd and I had been doing just fine on the climbs all day. We'd both spent time out front, sharing the work, and we were pretty worked by this point. The lead group now contained four OBC riders, a gentleman with a mirror on his bar, who was climbing everything in his big ring (!), Rodd and myself. As we pulled onto the highway for the last 22k or so of rolling open road the pace reached 40-45 on the flats. This was not new, we'd been riding at and above 40 on the flats all day. But it was windy here, and Rodd and I were both feeling the day. Rodd warned me that if he dropped off it was because he was cooked. When it came close to his turn to pull he said adieu and departed. I hung on. I pulled twice in the last 22k or so, for maybe 3-4 minutes each time. A couple of the OBC guys, Russ being one of them, did monster pulls. This is their style, they just pull for ever, and really hard. It was a weird sensation; not really pain or suffering, just hard. I had to dig deep to find the will to stay on the wheels and pull hard. The thought of giving up came into my head, but I was too close to let that happen. I was elated when I finally knew we were descending into Bancroft. It was over. I had done it. I wished Rodd was there with me, but I knew it wasn't his day. The five of us rolled into town together and signed in (the fourth OBC rider, Mark, had to stop for his camera, which had broken off its handlebar mount). The other guys looked kinda tired too, so I didn't feel bad!

Minutes later English Dave and the lone Euro-Sports rider, Fran├žois, rolled in. Dave had an excellent ride, bettering his previous year's effort by a large margin. Then Rodd appeared nine minutes after we had arrived. We drank Cokes, like the PROs, the only difference being our were not followed by massage, of course. Steve and Andy rolled in before too long, then Chris, Jamie, Jeff and Jacques.

The aftermath. A canoe of Cokes goes a long way.

Yeah, now we're smiling, after a good 30 minutes of recovery. Rodd rocked the stubble in Beardo solidarity...I think.

Did Jamie hitch-hike? Why doe he look so fresh? Perhaps he practices his 'fresh' face in the mirror...

Have you ever seen what a shattered rider looks like? Yes you have, Jeff, right above this. Jeff was totally depleted and crushed. He bonked and suffered more than ever before. It was his longest and hardest ride ever. But he did it. He didn't give up. He was most valiant on the day. I fetched him a coke and a meat burger. Yep, that's right, the vegan served meat to his crushed buddy. It worked...

After a few Cokes, food, and the prospect of a pro massage looming, Jeff's outlook on life was much improved. He'll never be the same again.

Jacques, our gracious host, had a good day. He rode his pace and finished without demoralizing himself. He was looking fresh soon after Rodd served him up some Coke and food. Does wonders that.

All told, the '160k' route was 177k. That's fine, but some of the first timers would have liked to know in advance. It is demoralizing to surpass the 160 mark by 7 k, only to then see a 10k to end sign. This deflates people. I've been there. It sucks. I'm pretty sure the 80k route is 80k; I don't know how the 240; works out. I've yet to talk to a finisher. It takes a looooong time. The group I finished with ride the distance in 5:09. That's an average of 34.33kph with 2500m of climbing. The OBC big guns are responsible for that.

5 minutes from the homestead. Perfect temperature, and scenic. Dreamy.

After a dinner of epic proportions, we got a bonfire going and reclined. Starry night, no bugs. Outstanding.

If you fancy a century ride with lots of climbing to challenge you, great scenery, enthusiastic and kind volunteers, and great riders to meet, try the Hilly Hundred next September. Its only second to D2R2 for me thus far. The pace is higher because there is less climbing, so its actually harder to stay with the lead group. Next year Rodd and I will ride it as a team event with the rest of our crew and work together to cover the route as fast as we can. This will surely mean the heavy hitters will pull away, but we'll get to enjoy the scenery, conversation, and checkpoints. I'm looking forward to it already. If you are there you won't be able to miss us.

For QuinTuple riders patiently awaiting times and photo stuff, keep it up. I still don't have everything in and am busy with this whole ride/race every weekend this month thing, but I'll get it done asap.

Also a notice/reminder that the Halloween fixed gear frolic event is a go, as is the tag team cross challenge. We came up with the name for the latter on the weekend: Double-Cross. Yeah, I agree, its awesome.

Halloween Fixed Frolic: OCTOBER 25th
Double-Cross: NOVEMBER 22nd


Pascii said...

Awesome post Matt. I did end up having to go into work Sat morning so I didn't miss it in vain. Next year fer sure. (shoot, I keep sayin' that)

Harry Quinn said...

Nice work lads... I think Matty is trying for a Coca-cola sponsorship for the Tall Tree team! Sorry to have missed it. I'll follow Pascal with a 'next year fer sure'!

Anonymous said...

Up early! 6am is not that early boys!

Try this race:

You're up at 3:30, off at 5:00am...
barely have time to take a dump.

Matt Surch said...

If the sun has not come up yet, its early. That's my criterion and I'm stickin to it. 3:30 is not early, its late; as in you have to get up late at night to get on your bike.

Anonymous said...

any of you boyz and girlz or unknowns... wanta hit the carribean islands this winter?

ride would consist of 10 islands.
Massive hills (ST lucia, Dominica the island, Tortola...)
about 85k a day with about 4000ft of climbing.
Road bike with good tires (cx skinnies would do).

Cost - about 1400 bucks for 2 weeks all inclusive meals.
about 700 for flight.

email me -

gotta sign up soon (reserve rooms and such)

idea is: bike all day.
eat a lot
drink some
end up on another island the next day
bike all day
eat a lot
drink some

it's friggen fun as hell! Massive climbs. Great culture (I was in one place last year where they claim they have head hunters!).
Eggcellent food! Fantastic views.
Nothing beats it.

Greg Cooper said...

Thanks to the tall trees group coming out. The trees and green uniforms seemed to fit in nicely with the Bancroft Hills. Had a chance to chat with one of the riders just before the turn off for the 270 section. You gotta consider the big loop sometime. Even more hills! Hope y'all can get out again next year
Greg Cooper. Bancroft local